Activities

22 of the best children's theatre companies across Canada

Do you have a miniature playwright with an uncompromising penchant for the stage? How about a little thespian who’s curious about drama? Take them to spend a day (or several!) at one of these awesome children’s playhouses.

theatre

Photo: Storybook Theatre/Benjamin Laird Photography

Treat your wee thespian to some family-friendly shows at one of these great theatre companies from coast to coast. Make sure to get to there early to look over the program with your kids—you can read over the synopsis together to give them an idea of what to expect.

Read more: Raising a drama queen>

 

B.C.

theatre

Photo: Western Canada Theatre/Murray Mitchell

Carousel Theatre for Young People
This Granville Island theatre company hosts more than 40,000 young people and their families each season for a variety of original and adapted stage productions. Though most shows are staged at the neighbouring Waterfront Theatre, they also host some larger travelling productions, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favourites (November 23 to 29; ages three and older) at the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre. Also being presented this fall-winter season is a musical adaption of Roald Dahl’s James And The Giant Peach (December 6 to January 4, 2015 at the Waterfront Theatre; ages six and older), The Adventures of Robin Hood (April 11 to 19, 2015, at The Waterfront Theatre; ages seven and older), plus some Shakespearean tales. New for the 2015 season, Carousel Theatre will introduce productions specially designed for infants up to age three at their intimate in-house BEE Stage. Parents should also look for designated all-ages performances (taking place late mornings or early afternoons) that feature slightly softer, gentler versions of each production, performed with the auditorium lights on to make them less stimulating for very young kids. The theatre also offers a variety of classes for kids three and older, with themes like Theatre Journeys, Stage Kids, Acting Adventures and Drama Exploration.

1411 Cartwright St., Vancouver. 604-685-6217

Get more information at carouseltheatre.ca>

Kids’ Koncerts at Orpheum Theatre
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra invites families to take in the joys of music at the Orpheum Theatre. Perfect for kids ages four to 11, this special five-concert series combines top children’s entertainers with the sounds of the orchestra. Concert themes for the 2014-2015 season (beginning October 26 and ending May 17) include a Lemony Snicket musical mystery (the kids help collect clues!). These shows promise to get the kids dancing to music by Mozart, Beethoven and other iconic composers. Get there early and participate in the Instrument Fair (free with a concert ticket) in the Orpheum Theatre lobby, where kids can see, touch and even play the instruments.

601 Smithe St., Vancouver. 604-876-3434

Get more information at vancouversymphony.ca>

Tiny Tots at Vancouver Playhouse and Terry Fox Theatre
Calling all mini music lovers! Let Your Music Shine with Lisa and Linda is a special four-concert series in collaboration with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Each 45-minute show is presented by costumed hosts and musical educators, Lisa and Linda, who introduce youngsters to classical music through singalongs, dancing and other activities. Shows are hosted in two locations: Vancouver Playhouse Theatre and Coquitlam’s Terry Fox Theatre. Each date has two different show times (10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.) to accommodate plenty of families.

Vancouver: 600 Dunsmuir St. Port Coquitlam: 1260 Riverwood Gate. 604-876-3434

Get more information at vancouversymphony.ca>

Bumbershoot Children’s Theatre
Nestled in the scenic Okanagan Valley, Bumbershoot is Kelowna’s first-ever theatre company dedicated exclusively to kids. Now in its sixth season, this non-profit company produces four shows each year, and puts on a variety of age-appropriate themed theatre camps, classes and workshops. This year, Bumbershoot is collaborating with organizations and local community groups like the RCMP and the food bank, among others, in an effort to open up dialogue about how the shows’ themes relate to real life. (What can Red Riding Hood tell us about stranger danger?) The autumn season kicks off with The Secret Garden (September 18 to 28; ages eight and older), followed by Hansel and Gretel (October 23 to November 2; ages six and older). Stay tuned during the holiday season for the crafty and creative all-ages production of The Elves and the Shoemaker (December 20 to 23 and 26 to 29).

125-1295 Cannery Line, Kelowna. 778-478-0142

Get more information at bumbershoottheatre.com>

Four Seasons Musical Theatre
This theatre company has been bringing classic stories (think Alice in Wonderland and Oliver! The Musical, among many others) to kids for more than 20 years. This fall’s productions will include a musical adaptation of The Secret Garden, followed by Shrek The Musical in spring 2015. All shows take place at Isabelle Reader Theatre. Drama and vocal classes are also offered for school-aged kids, as well as summer camps.

1026 Goldstream Ave., Langford. 250-478-0329

Get more information at fsmtheatre.ca>

Western Canada Theatre
This Kamloops theatre hosts travelling groups as well as homegrown artists to produce more than seven plays each year. All shows take place in one of the organization’s two associated theatres: the Pavilion Theatre and the Sagebrush Theatre. Though not all productions are geared toward children, the company does host some kid-friendly shows as part of its playbill each year. This season will feature The Very Hungry Caterpillar (November 17; Sagebrush Theatre; ages three to eight) and a local Western Canada Theatre production of Bird Brain (May 23 and 30; Pavilion Theatre; ages three to eight).

1025 Lorne St., Kamloops. 250-372-3216

Get more information at wctlive.ca>

 Alberta

theatre

Photo: Benjamin Laird Photography/Storybook Theatre

Storybook Theatre
Calgary’s Storybook Theatre is calling this year “The Season to Imagine.” One of the city’s largest community-theatre companies, this group is presenting eight imaginative plays for the 2014-2015 season. Theatregoers as young as three years old can look forward to Richard Scarry’s Busytown The Musical (weekends October 3 to 25), while slightly older audiences can take in Peter Pan The Musical (November 28 to December 21), The Hobbit (February 6 to 22, 2015) and more. They also offer 10-week drama camps every Saturday for aspiring actors ages six to 18, as well as summer camps.

375 Bermuda Dr. NW, Calgary. 403-216-0808

Get more information at storybooktheatre.org>

The Loose Moose Theatre Company
Grab a bite to eat at Calgary’s Crossroads Market, and then head up to the second floor to enjoy a live show at The Loose Moose Theatre Company. This theatre specializes in improvised productions that begin with a classic fairy tale or iconic children’s story and end wherever the audience decides to take them for a fun interactive experience. The theatre typically presents four different shows on weekends September through May, aimed at kids ages four to 11.

1235-26th Ave. SE (2nd floor of Crossroads Market), Calgary. 403-265-5682

Get more information at loosemoose.com>

Stage West
Experience dinner and a show with the whole family at this Calgary dinner theatre. Two kid-friendly stage productions are put on every year: one during the holiday season and one in the spring, with each show running for a few consecutive Saturdays. Stage West provides a special kids menu (hot dogs, pizza and Jell-O), as well as an extensive menu for adults. Show titles and exact dates are usually released one month in advance, so call ahead or check online for full information.

727 42nd Ave. SE, Calgary. 403-243-6642

Get more information at stagewestcalgary.com>

Saskatchewan

Photo: Persephone Theatre

Photo: Persephone Theatre

Persephone Theatre
This Saskatoon theatre is celebrating 40 years of high-calibre Canadian productions for audiences of all ages. While the theatre creates a few touring shows each year, they also host a variety of performances from across the country. This year, the theatre invites school-aged kids to join them for four one-day special school matinees—a great field trip option for Saskatchewan school kids as young as grade five. There’s also an optional “talk back” session after each show for kids to ask questions and discuss themes. Field trip titles include the one- man show The Highest Step In The World (November 5; grades seven to 12), holiday favourite It’s A Wonderful Life (December 10; grades five to 12) and musical comedy The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (April 29, 2015; grades five to 12). Families with younger kids can choose from several titles, including Pinocchio (October 14 to 18; kindergarten to grade five), Where the Wild Things Are (December 4 to 14; kindergarten to grade three), and other favourites.

100 Spadina Cres., East Saskatoon. 306-384-7727

Get more information at persephonetheatre.org>

Wide Open Children’s Theatre 
In addition to performing at various schools and community events throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan, this kid-friendly company also hosts their in-house season of productions at The Refinery Arts and Spirit Centre in Saskatoon. Kids ages two to 10 are encouraged to sing along with the puppets throughout the show for a fully interactive theatre experience. Not sure your little ones can handle sitting through an hour-long show? Wide Open also offers half-hour versions of their productions for young kids—a great way to introduce them to the theatre. Though show titles and dates for the upcoming 2015 series are still being determined, this past season featured a collection of stories by Robert Munsch, a special Christmas variety show and more. Call ahead or check online for full 2015 show information and dates.

Shows performed at The Refinery, 609 Dufferin Ave., Saskatoon. 306-683-9460

Get more information at wideopen.ca>

Manitoba

theatre

Photo: Hubert Pantel

Manitoba Theatre for Young People 
In addition to hosting touring shows from around the globe, this Winnipeg theatre creates and develops in-house productions. The 2014-2015 season starts with a powerful production of Jabber (October 15 to 23; teens) and ends with the clever and funny Kaput (April 16 to 26, 2015; kids ages five and older), with classics like Pinocchio (November 6 to 15; kids ages five and older) and Peter Pan (November 27 to December 24; kids ages five to 12) in between. Parents of very young kids should mark their calendars for Spot, a musical puppetry show featuring the famous children’s series pup (March 23 to April 2, 2015; kids ages two to seven). There are also plenty of classes and camps to choose from, for kids as young as three years old.

2 Forks Market Rd., Winnipeg. 204-942-8898

Get more information at mtyp.ca>

Ontario

theatre

Photo: Young People’s Theatre

Sony Centre for the Performing Arts
Since its inception in 1960, the Sony Centre has been a Toronto mainstay—it’s even a designated historical site—and a popular destination for some of the biggest names in entertainment. Though the Centre’s presentations aren’t all kid-friendly, it’s an excellent destination for families to catch some of the top children’s touring acts. This fall, see what those inseperable pals are up to in Toopy and Binoo: Fun and Games (November 8) and dance up a storm with the Oscar and company in Sesame Street Live: Let’s Dance! (November 15 to 16). Complimentary stroller check is available, as are booster seats (on a first-come, first-served basis).

1 Front St. E., Toronto. 855-872-7669 

Get more information at sonycentre.ca>

Solar Stage Children’s Theatre 
This intimate theatre in North York caters to kids ages three to 10 with a variety of musical, interactive and imaginative plays. Kids can get comfy in the small cushioned seating area at the front while parents sit back and enjoy the show from rows of chairs. The cozy theatre seats around 100 patrons and is first-come, first-served, so get there early. Though babes in arms are welcome, they must have a ticket. In addition to midday productions of Little Red Riding Hood, Multiple Munsch and Mother Goose Stories, Solar Stage also offers school-group and daycare shows, as well as birthday parties (they offer party packages that you have to book in advance. Booking dates are dependent on show schedules, and are not all restricted to weekends). Due to the size of the theatre, strollers aren’t permitted inside but can be left in the on-site office.

4950 Yonge St., North York. 416-368-8031

Get more information at solarstage.on.ca>

Young People’s Theatre
Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, Young People’s Theatre is Canada’s largest professional theatre for young audiences, with stories adapted for the stage for kids of all ages in two different spaces. This season school-aged kids can enjoy the classic To Kill A Mockingbird (October 6 to November 2) or the evocative social media-inspired Tagged (April 21 to May 8, 2015), while kids as young as four can take in the winter magic of Snow Angel (coming February 2015) or the dance-infused Bedtime! (spring 2015). The theatre also offers in-house birthday parties and year-round acting camps, classes and other programs for all ages at three different locations: downtown, Etobicoke and North York. Children younger than one do not need a ticket but must sit on a parent’s lap. A limited number of booster seats are available for little ones. Though strollers aren’t permitted in the theatre itself, they can be left in the lobby. From Nov. 24 to Dec. 21, YPT will be presenting Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, recommended for kids six and older.

165 Front St. E, Toronto. 416-862-2222

Get more information at youngpeoplestheatre.ca>

Marquee Theatrical Productions
This Aurora-based theatre is all about forming a fun, nurturing and creative environment for school-aged kids to embrace the theatre community through a variety of camps, classes and plays. Productions are staged at the Newmarket Theatre. Stay tuned for the newest addition to the playbill, Encore! A Magical Broadway Review (coming in November; kids of all ages). Camps are geared toward kids ages six to 19 and mostly take place during the summer. There’s also a series of fall programs, including KinderStages (a 10-session musical theatre class beginning in September; kids ages four to six), a new special-needs Music in Motion program (kids ages four to 13), a Glee Club (kids ages 10 to 18) and other programs for youth of various ages.

505 Pickering Cres., Newmarket. 905-953-5122

Get more information at marqueetp.com>

Quebec

Photo: Michel Pinault

Photo: Michel Pinault

La Maison Théâtre
These charming and unique marionette and live-actor productions are truly works of art. Kids of all ages and their families can watch characters come to life in one of two French-language theatres: La Maison Théâtre Chez Elle,which will host 11 plays during the 2014-2015 season for kids three to 14; and La Maison Théâtre au Prospero, a smaller and more intimate stage featuring four plays for kids as young as two. Most of the shows premiere with an evening performance, followed by matinees on weekdays and even some weekend morning shows.

245 rue Ontario Est., Montreal. 514-288-7211

Get more information at maisontheatre.com>

L’Illusion Théâtre de Marionnettes
This season marks L’Illusion’s 35th year of presenting stories to young people through puppetry. The Montreal studio brings adaptations of traditional folklore-inspired productions, as well as original shows to kids at their on-site theatre as well as while they tour throughout the province. Shows are in French, and are aimed at kids ages three to 12. This fall, kids ages three to six can enjoy the underwater adventures of Ondin (September 30 to October 12), while kids ages seven to 12 can watch the mythological production of Philémon et Baucis (coming in November), followed by other creative shows throughout the rest of the performance year.

6430 rue St-Denis, Montreal. 514-523-1303

Get more information at illusiontheatre.com>

Centaur Theatre Company
While it does present shows from national and international groups, this theatre maintains a strong focus on local, Montreal-based playwrights. The theatre also hosts the Saturday Morning Children’s Series, which gives families a chance to catch a kid-friendly production on select Saturday mornings throughout the season. Call ahead for show dates, times and tickets.

453 rue Saint-Francois-Xavier, Montreal. 514-288-3161

Get more information at centaurtheatre.com>

 L’Arrière Scène
Immerse kids in the world of dramatic arts. Youth ages eight to 17 are invited to join the P’tite Troupe, a weekly class where they’ll learn the ins and outs of the theatre from multiple perspectives, from reviewing shows to being part of an original production. Members will also receive two tickets to see some of the company’s shows such as Tu dois avoir si froid (October 5; ages five to eight), Gretel et Hansel (December 7; ages six to 10), Le temps des muffins (March 1, 2015; ages four to six). Going to a play? Get there early on certain show dates for a family workshop prior to the curtain call (free with ticket), where kids can make crafts and learn about the theatre. Plus, meet the actors after the play!

600 rue Richelieu, Beloeil. 450-464-4772

Get more information at arrierescene.qc.ca>

New Brunswick

Photo: The Fredericton Playhouse

Photo: The Fredericton Playhouse

The Fredericton Playhouse
This theatre hosts a wide variety of stage productions and musical acts from local performers to international touring companies. Though many shows are aimed at mature crowds, the theatre does host kid-friendly productions, too, such as Toopy and Binoo Live! (November 26) and Peter Pan (December 28). In an effort to expose kids to the world of theatre and dance, the Playhouse has created the School Field Trips program, offering a series of performances designed for school-aged kids. The 2014-2015 season offers step-dance spectacle Sokalo (October 15; kindergarten to grade 12), the magical puppetry of The Star Keeper (March 16, 2015; kindergarten to grade five) and World War II story Lifeboat (April 20, 2015; grades four to 12). There’s even a study guide available for the latter two performances so classes can discuss the plays following the shows. The theatre also offers classes backstage tours, which can be booked in advance.

686 Queen St., Fredericton. 506-458-8344

Get more information at theplayhouse.ca>

Nova Scotia

Photo: Mermaid Imperial Performing Arts Centre

Photo: Mermaid Imperial Performing Arts Centre

Mermaid Imperial Performing Arts Centre
Since its inception in 1972, the world-famous Mermaid Theatre has enchanted young people around the world with its dynamic puppetry, lively music and vibrant adaptations of some of the most beloved classic children’s stories. Inhabiting a building that was a once-booming concert venue and movie theatre in decades past, it is now a visual arts and theatrical hub. Families can catch preview and homecoming performances of Mermaid Theatre’s internationally renowned productions (check online for shows and dates). The organization also offers puppetry workshops, tours and interactive demonstrations for kids. Kids younger than two get in free, as long as they’re sitting on a parent’s lap.

106 Gerrish St., Windsor. 902-798-5841

Get more information at mermaidtheatre.ca>

A version of this article appeared in our September 2014 issue with the headline ” All the best children’s theatre companies,” pp. 119-129.